Delay refugee ‘psychological taskforce’

Sir, – I commend our Government’s swift response to the arrival of people from Ukraine.

The operation at Dublin Airport is timely and appropriate. It responds to people's basic need for safety, comfort, physical, emotional, and social care. Contrary to what Dr Maureen Gaffney advocates in her call for "a psychological taskforce for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland" (Letters, March 12th), I believe that the co-ordinated response already in place is based on what I understand as best practice outlined in the IASC (International-Agency Steering Committee) guidelines 2007 for mental health and psychosocial support in responding to any humanitarian crises.

These guidelines outline the following phases. First, basic needs for shelter, safety, food etc; second, family and community connections in social care; third, primary care services and psychosocial care and fourth, specialised services to respond when appropriate for the trauma and mental health care needs.

These phases are represented by a pyramid and it is clear that specialised services come at a later stage.


Evidence from refugees settled in Ireland over several decades indicates that it may take a long time before individuals are able to address the issue of trauma.

Psychosocial care includes the principles of psychological first aid. Psychological first aid can be and is often delivered initially by trained volunteers who are capable of being compassionate, are able to mitigate against further stress for individuals and who can refer on to appropriate services when necessary.

Managing this humanitarian crisis is a major challenge. However, given the work of the Irish Red Cross and all the other agencies in Ireland who are experienced in working with refugees and migrants it is heartening to see the amazing response of the Irish people.

As a healthcare professional, with many years experience of working with refugees in several African countries as well as here in Ireland, I have learned that refugees are very resilient, strong and courageous individuals.

They are survivors with great strengths and amazing capacity to support and help each other. For this reason I advocate caution in responding too quickly with a medicalised western model of psychological care.

– Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.